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7 Lessons Birth Taught Me

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7 Lessons Birth Taught MeToday we celebrate my middle child’s birthday and I can’t help but reflect on her birth story Birth Two: The Towel Trick. I learned a lot of lessons from my each of my births. This second birth was an opportunity for me to put into practice some of what my first birth had taught me. And, did it ever help. My second birth was much faster (4 hours of hard labor instead of 16) and was a beautiful experience overall. I know the speed of delivery varies with each pregnancy, but I have no doubt that some of it did have to do with what I had learned from #1 {post to come}.

So, as I reflected, I wanted to take a few moments to discuss a few of those lessons. And, if you are a mom already, I hope you’ll also consider what you learned from your own birth experiences and tell us either in a comment below or by sharing your story with our readers.

1) Choose your care provider carefully.

Kenna was in a posterior position which was causing horrible back pain and wasn’t allowing her to engage as well. My midwife knew a natural remedy (the towel trick) to get Kenna to flip and engage within minutes. The resident doctor who witnessed it all learned a lot. I still wonder how labor would’ve progressed without that simple maneuver and without the careful consideration I gave to choosing my care provider. The towel trick was easy enough, but if I had chosen someone who didn’t have the same experience and expertise with natural birth, that simple maneuver could’ve been replaced by a more invasive intervention.

2) Listen to your body.

With my first, I went to the hospital way too early. I wasn’t listening to my body for readiness and it caused my labor to slow. This time around, I labored at home until I instinctively knew it was time to go. I walked into the hospital at 9 cm and near transition. Labor did not slow at all. It progressed nicely and quickly.

3) Be confident in your preferences.

I had a birth plan in place that was not a rigid set of demands. After all, I knew twists and turns could happen, so I was prepared to make concessions if need be. But, I knew what was most important to me and what I most desired for my birth experience, as along as mother and baby were doing fine. That confidence permitted me to labor at home for so long. The research I put in ahead of time helped me stay focused during each contraction…for the most part. Natural labor is not easy, but it is more manageable when you keep your goal in mind.

5) Making a decision in the grips of transition isn’t a good idea.

This was the one negative lesson I had to learn. My one disappointment from this birth was that I submitted to receiving a shot of Nubain when a sweet nurse bent down, looked into my eyes in the midst of a contraction and asked if I wouldn’t consider some medicine to take the edge off. Gripped by a contraction, I consented. My daughter was born less than 30 minutes later. The drug did nothing for me. It did not ease my pain, but I gave in because I feared I had many more hours of labor ahead and I feared I didn’t have the strength to continue on. My midwife later told me that it is during those moments of transition when you just want to give up that you are actually close to delivering. I made the choice without her there and at the peak of a contraction. If I would’ve delayed the decision just a few minutes longer, it would’ve been a completely unmedicated birth, which was what I had desired.

4) Having a support system matters.

My husband was by my side, cheering me on and giving me confidence. He was also rubbing his fingers raw trying to provide counter pressure for my back labor. My midwife was also there to guide me and encourage me. I had confidence in my support system and knew they had my best interest in mind. This allowed me to focus on labor without concern that I wasn’t being understood or involved in the decision making.

5) The pain can end with birth.

I tore with my first child and dealt with a decent amount of soreness for a few weeks afterwards. With him being my first child, I assumed some of that tenderness was just due to the fact that I had birthed a child. After my second, I realized that it is possible to have a baby and be ready to hop out of bed and walk around a few minutes later. I did not require any pain medicine at all. My recovery was quick and smooth, giving me more time to focus on bonding and breastfeeding.

6) Birth can be empowering.

I tend to get enraged when I see a birth in a movie or on a TV show that depicts a woman screaming and cursing, surrounded by people decked out in scrubs and surgical attire. It’s as if a medical procedure is happening to her, against her will. She is not a willing and active participant. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be that way. There was no chaos or cursing, and my husband who caught our daughter did not have to suit up in scrubs. The delivery room was peaceful and patient. My birth gave me confidence in myself. I learned just how amazing my body can be and just how it was designed to birth and breastfeed a baby.

7) My story is not the norm.

More so than the Nubain, this is the part that makes me the saddest. After settling into my room, a student nurse came in. She had heard about my quick delivery and about my birth plan. She was amazed. During her time there, she hadn’t heard of a birth plan and hadn’t witnessed such a quick delivery. She asked me a lot of questions and invited other student nurses to come in and talk with me. I welcomed their questions and I liked being able to share my story with them, but it made me sad to know that not many other women have the same experience that I did. The thing is, I’m no superwoman. What I experienced wasn’t something that is unattainable for other women. What I learned is that I am stronger than I realize, as is the case with most women. My births sparked in me a passion to tell other women that they are also strong and that birth can be beautiful and powerful. My story doesn’t have to be so unique. The belief that more women’s experiences can be improved through open dialog and real conversation birthed the creation of Unexpectant.

I believe every woman learns something from birth: good and bad. I also believe we can learn from one another. So, let’s start now. Tell us what your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and birth taught you.

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